Court Edwards - Unicyclist Supreme

The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - April 10, 1902
Court Edwards a trick rider, of California proposes to ride a unicycle trick wheel from Fresno to San Francisco. The distance is something like 200 miles, over some pretty tough roads. The ride will certainly prove an endurance run for man, wheel and tire.

More details coming soon. :smiley:

Can’t wait, seems a cool story!


Let’s back up the story a bit …

The Topeka State JournalSept 18, 1895
A Topeka Globe Trotter
Court Edwards Will Go to California on His Bicycle
To the Sporting Editor State Journal:
I will start for Fresno, California by wheel, on the morning of the 23rd, Monday. I will go from here to Kanapolis, where I will meet Mr. J.O. Snider, of Huntington, Va, and from there we will ride together. Mr. Snider is a man of about 30 or 35. He rode from Huntington, West Va., to Wichita, and seems to be a good rider.

I am 19 years old and have been working for Wm. Taylor, the bicycle man, for three years, and understand the bicycles very well. I belong to the L.A.W.,T.A.A., and T.A.S.W.

I will go from her to Denver by following the Union Pacific R.R. and then to Cheyenne, and then to Ogden, Utah, then to Salt Lake for a visit, and then back to Ogden and down through Nevada, and to Sacramento, Cal. I will then visit San Francisco and stop at Fresno for the winter. In the spring I will go to San Diego, Cal., to take a position in a bicycle store.

At a rough guess we think it will take us 30 or 35 days to make the trip.
Court P. Edwards.

The Fresno Bee The Republican from Fresno - March 31, 1936
(Couldn’t see the whole story. Think this is a reprint or “what happened in …”)
Court P. Edwards, 19, arrived in Fresno on a bicycle after a 2,335- mile ride from Topeka, Kan. He settled here.

Holbrook ArgusDecember 15, 1900
Court P. Edwards, a trick bicycle rider of Fresno, is to make a tour of the United States and Mexico. He has under construction a wheel of unique design. It will be egg-shaped, and calculated to “surprise the natives.” Edwards does the “tramp act.”

The Topeka State JournalFeb. 6 1902
Edwards on the Stage
Topeka Man Startles California People With Bicycle Tricks
The following is from the Fresno California, Evening Democrat and refers to Court Edwards who was better known to the cycling fraternity of Topeka a half dozen years ago as “Skinny.” He was employed at Taylor’s bicycle store. He rode to California on his bicycle from Topeka. The Democrat says:

It is generally admitted that to be appreciated at home one must win plaudits abroad and the bicycle trick riding of Court Edwards furnishes another demonstration of the fact.

Edwards has been corresponding with the manager of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit and has secured an engagement for the first of June. In his letter asking for a position in the company Edwards outlined the tricks he proposed to perform and the booking agent for the company replied that he had four sensations which have never been shown anywhere in the world. Edwards also inclosed in his letter newspaper clippings, and the manager of the Orpheum stated that if he could perform half the tricks accredited to him by the papers he might have an engagement at any time.

He performs all the tricks with which he has been accustomed to entertain the crowds on the streets, and plays the cornet at the same time. He has had a set of steps made down which he rides on the unicycle on his hands. That is he works the pedals of the unicycle with his hands and rests his chest on the saddle, his feet in the air. On the ordinary bicycle he not only rides downstairs, but upstairs as well. He performs a neat trick which he has never shown on the street, by means of the unicycle and an ordinary table. He straps his feet to the pedals of the unicycle, and riding directly against the table, places his head upon it and turns over it, machine and all, and dropping to the floor on the opposite side, rides away without having touched his hands. But these are not his sensations.

The San Francisco Call - April 26, 1902
Wonderous will be the features at the Elk Circus
… Among the local performers who will do straight turns, Court Edwards, the trick cyclist, undoubtedly will be the most popular. He performs feats which, it is asserted, no other living cyclist has ever attempted.

The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - April 10, 1902
Court Edwards a trick rider, of California proposes to ride a unicycle trick wheel from Fresno to San Francisco. The distance is something like 200 miles, over some pretty tough roads. The ride will certainly prove an endurance run for man, wheel and tire.

The Clarence and Richmond Examiner - August 9, 1902
He Rode a Unicycle 210 Miles.
Bicycle two, unicycle one: and it is a unicycle that is ridden by Court Edwards, a famous trick cyclist of the world over the sea. The other day he rode his unicycle 210 miles, occupying about four and a half days, and a paper at his destination having been notified of his intended arrival. He rode straight into the open door, and started to be interviewed Part of this extraordinary trip was done on good roads, but the Wonderful feature of it is that part of it was over rough ones, and a good many miles through nothing better than soft sand. Edwards took a camera with him, and took photos with it, but it was a paper man who photoed him on his machine, and another paper man who drew him from this photo as in the sketch.

The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - April 17, 1909
To Cross Continent On Unicycle
California Trick Rider Breezily Announces Plans for Unique Undertaking – Seven Years in Training for the Trip.

Some time in the dim distant future Edward Payson Weston, the old pedestrian who is “hoofing” across the continent, may meet a stranger sitting over one wheel, with his nose pointed in the direction of Manhattan and its “gay white way.” Should such a meeting take place the stranger will be none other than “the only and renowned” Court Edwards, “unicyclist supreme,” as he describes himself.

Court Edwards is ambitious. In 1902 he says he rode his unicycle from Fresno to San Francisco, 235 miles in 37 hours, covering 71 miles the last day. Since then the tales of various transcontinentalists have stirred within his breast the fire of ambition to ride across the continent on one wheel. By the way, Court has broken all training records, for to quote his own words, “after hard practice since 1902, I have been training and getting into condition that I might make the ride from San Francisco to New York. I am ready for the greatest event of my life.” Think of it! Training for seven years! And some bicycle champions kick like Kansas mules if they are compelled to train two hours a day.

Not only does Court Edwards perform feats, to quote again, “upon the unicycle that seems impossible, and doing them with such ease and grace as to captivate the most skeptical,” but he plays cornet solos as well, and the silver-toned notes from his cornet of the same metal will be used to aid him in making the long, dry criss-cross from the Poodle Dog restaurant in Sociable San Francisco to the Forty-second Street Country Club in Magnificent Manhattan.

“Gentlemen” writes the only and renowned Court Edwards, in his best Eurekian style, “we are living in the most progressive and enterprising age of man and are continually looking for something new and up-to-date that our competitor don’t have, and when we see something unusual and sensational that would advertise our business, we grasp it and push it until the field is overworked in that line.”

From which flowery introduction you might infer, dearly beloved guessers, that Court has an advertising scheme up his sleeve. Correct, the very first time, for if you have anything that you want advertised in the arid wastes and deserts, the lofty mountain ranges and the thriving villages and cities between San Francisco and New York, Court is right on the job with two feet, a unicycle, one umbrella, a cornet, a Kodak and his own personality. Let Court tell his plans in his own language:

“I will leave San Francisco just as soon as all arrangements are completed,” he says, “ and aim to arrive in New York about 125 days from the date I start, the distance to travel being 4,500 miles. I will give exhibitions in each town on my route, play cornet solos, advertise your business, goods or whatever it might be, work for your interest in every way possible. I will carry an umbrella with your advertisement on the top, make announcements for your goods and have your name on a sign that hangs in the center of the wheel. You furnish me free of charge 10,000 to 20,000 cabinet size photographs or and imitation or substitute for a photograph, my picture to be on one side and a short biography of my life on the other: you put your advertisement on the mount where you like. I will sell these pictures to defray expenses and have them sent to different points along the route. When I arrive in New York I will receive my compensation, providing I make good per agreement, but if I fail to finish my journey, I ask for nothing and you get the benefit of advertising up to the time I give up, should anything happen to me. The route to be as direct across the continent as possible, unless otherwise directed by you. I will stop at the best hotels and carry a kodak to take pictures of different points of interest and keep a diary.”

And at that the idea is unique and the feat of riding a unicycle some 4,500 miles is a novel undertaking in itself.

San Francisco Chronicle - June 2, 1909
Will Cross Country Riding a Unicycle
Court Edwards, who is to start for New York on a unicycle on Wednesday, arrived in town yesterday morning from is home in Eureka. He will travel by way of Stockton, Sacramento, Reno, Ogden, Cheyenne, Chicago, Toledo, Buffalo. The wheel that he rides weighs thirty pounds “all on”, which includes a camera. It is thirty inches in diameter, fitted with cement tire. Edwards will carry his favorite cornet, on which instrument he is an accomplished performer. Edwards will be accompanied by Ray Kent on a bicycle. Kent is also a cornetist of ability, and the pair expect to while away some dull moments by playing duets and otherwise amusing the natives along the line. Edwards a few years ago rode from Fresno to San Francisco on a unicycle, doing seventy-five miles the last day of the ride. His total riding time for that trip was thirty-seven hours. He expects to average between thirty and forty miles a day on the Eastern trip, but will endeavor to establish a record of 100 miles some day when the roads permit it.

The San Francisco Call - June 4, 1909
Court Edwards of Eureka will leave today for New York, riding a unicycle overland, via Stockton, Sacramento, Reno, Ogden, Omaha, etc. He will be accompanied by Ray Kent, who will ride a regular bicycle. Kent’s home is in Ohio, and he is returning there to visit. Edwards a few years ago rode his unicycle from Fresno to San Francisco, his riding time being 37 hours. He expects to average between 30 and 40 miles per day, and will some day in the trip ride 100 miles, when conditions are favorable for the performance. Both riders are accomplished cornetists and will carry their horns on the trip. Edwards’ “wheel,” with his camera, weighs 30 pounds. It is 30 inches in diameter. In his Fresno trip he rode 71 miles the last day of the trip. The riders expect to reach Scramento Saturday and will attend the motorcycle races there June 6.

The Bicycling World and Motorcycle Review - June 12, 1909
Unicycle Transcontinentalist Starts,
Court Edwards, the Eureka (Cal.) trick rider, left San Francisco June 3 for New York, riding a unicycle, via Stockton, Sacramento, Reno, Ogden, Omaha, and Chicago. He was accompanied by Ray Kent, who is content, however, to ride an ordinary two wheeled bicycle. Kent’s home is in Ohio, and he is going there for a visit. The pair expect to average between 30 and 40 miles per day, and will some day in the trip ride 100 miles. Both riders are accomplished cornetists and will make music as they go as one of several means of paying the expenses of their long and unique journey. Edward’s “wheel,” with his camera, weighs 30 pounds. It is 30 inches in diameter.

Washington HeraldJune 27, 1909
Court Edwards, of San Francisco, started last week to ride on a unicycle from San Francisco to New York. His wheel weighs thirty pounds and is thirty inches in diameter with cement tires.

I couldn’t find more about the ride but will keep on searching.

The Hawaiian StarAugust 11, 1910
Motorist Make Fast Times – August 1
… Court Edwards gives trick riding exhibition [in San Jose]

Los Angeles HeraldAug 10, 1910
Divorce Suits Filed
Jeanie Edwards against Court P. Edwards

The Day Book - Sep 9, 1912
Court Edwards, 38, 2209 Prairie ave., fell from his motorcycle at Riverview Motordome. May die.

Chicago Tribune - Sept 10, 1912
Cyclist Dashed To Death
Hurtled 40 Feet in Air at Riverview Park Motordome.
Bride Sees The Tragedy
Two Riders Collide, Rear-On, at 73 Miles an Hour Speed

Court Edwards died yesterday at Alexian Brothers’ hospital. He was fatally injured on Saturday night in a motorcycle race at Riverview park.

On Sunday night, in Newark, N.J., Eddie Hasha, until three weeks ago a member of the Chicago troupe, catapulted seventy-five feet in the air and fifty feet into a crowded grandstand. He lost his life, four spectators were killed by his flying engine, a second rider met death in the spill and thirteen spectators were injured. Hasha was speeding ninety-two miles an hour.

Edwards, who was going seventy-four miles an hour, was hurled forty feet in the air when crashed into from the rear by Joe O’Laughlin, a competitor. His motorcycle struck a guard rail at the top and Edwards missed by only a few feet, being catapulted into a crowe of 10,000 persons. If he had been hurled ten feet higher his machine might have carried death and injury to as many person’s as did Hasha’s.

Rolls Down Incline Into Pit.
Instead, Edwards and his machine, after striking the railing, rolled down the incline of the track toward the bottom of the pit. Edwards had fallen out of the saddle, but ws tangled up in the frame.

Half way down the riderless machine was crashed into by Davie Kennie, and he and his machine slid to the bottom with Edwards and his cycle. In the same heap was O Laughlin and his speedster.

Spectators rose to their feet, women screamed and covered their eyes, while every witness felt a triple tragedy had been enacted. The stretchers were brought up. Edwards was unconscious. To quiet the crowd a loud voiced man shouted: “He’s all right; he isn’t hurt bad.”

Edwards and the others were taken away, the band started playing, and the races went on, the spectators unmindful of the narrow escape they had when Edwards’ machine barely missed catapulting into the crowd.

Bride Follows Stretcher
Following the stretcher bearing Edwards’ to the park emergency hospital was an hysterical young woman. She was a bride of a few months-wife of the injured man. Edwards laid before her unconscious, unaware of her pleadings for him to speak to his bride, but doctors assured the woman he would revive soon. The bride saw a big dent in her husband’s scalp, but the physicians reassured her. She followed on to Alexian Brother’s hospital and stayed by him until the end. He never regained consciousness.

News of the accident did not become public until the report of Edwards’ death reached the coroner. Then it was recalled that when the Riverview motordrome was opened last year one racer met his death. He was hurled high into the air and tumbled to the bottom of the pit, where he was crushed beneath his machine. Several other accidents have occurred in the motodrome.

Plan Benefit for Widow
Yet within a few hours after the death of the second victim of wild speeding the management was planning to have the death dealing events repeated-and for the benefit of the widow of Edwards. The season’s races closed Sunday night but most of the riders have remained in the city to take part in the Edwards benefit next Saturday and Sunday.

Mrs. Edwards was confined to her bed at 2309 Prairie avenue yesterday.
“I was with a party of friends,” she said, speaking of the tragedy. “Earlier in the evening there were a couple of spills. I pleaded with my husband not to take part in the other races. But he said he felt fine.
“In the next event the boys were speeding around the course at a terrific pace. They must have been going easily seventy-five miles per hour. My husband was riding low. O’Laughlin tried to pass him. The front wheel of O’Laughlin’s cycle struck the under side of the rear wheel of my husband’s machine.
“Mr. Edwards was hurled forty feet up the incline. His head struck the railing and he cleared his saddle. He then tumbled down the track to the bottom, where he lay crumpled up, unconscious.”

Motorcycle Illustrated - October 3, 1912
Edwards On His Unicycle
The unusual photograph reproduced herewith shows Court Edwards on his unicycle at the Riverview Motordrome in Chicago. The picture was taken only a few days before the accident which resulted in the death of Edwards, and by a peculiar coincidence it shows the exact spot where he collided with another rider while driving his racing machine at top speed. Edwards was a plucky rider, always willing to take a sporting chance, and a favorite with the spectators and his fellow speedster. The photograph was taken by H.P. Cook of Chicago, a racing enthusiast.

Humbolt Room Photograph Collection

Collection: Swanlund-Baker
Photo ID: 1999.01.0356
Author/Creator: Baker, Ray Jerome
Date: 1907?
Title: Court Edwards and his Unicycle - about 1907 in Sequoia Park


Los Angeles HeraldDec 7 1910
Wife’s Refusal To Wear Tights Given As Divorce Cause
That she is opposed to wearing fleshlings and appearing on a vaudeville circuit as a trick bicycle rider is an assertion made yesterday by Mrs. Geni Edwards, who is seeking a divorce from C. P. Edwards, a wheel performer. She charges desertion.

The case was called before Judge Conrey of the superior court, who was told by Mrs. Edwards that she and her husband were married in Eureka, Cal., in 1906. He was a bicycle performer and he wanted his wife to become one also and travel with him. When She objected from the standpoint of modesty he deserted her, she alleges, and took with him another woman who was willing to wear tights.

Judge Conrey continued the action until depositions from Eureka could be obtained.

Great sleuthing, Vertigo!

Beautiful photo from an 8"x10" glass negative, hundreds of megapixels even scanning at a modest resolution. I’m still not completely sure what he’s got going on with the handlebar mounts though. And it doesn’t quite look like a Brooks logo on the saddle in that photo.

Probably a deal breaker for me too. :slight_smile:

This set me off looking at board track motorcycle racing articles, something I’d heard a little bit about before. It was an odd blip in entertainment history, very popular for a short time, very exciting, and very deadly. It looks like the accident that killed Court Edwards was widely reported but just one of many around the country, and the tracks were all shut down within a few years.

The motorcycles were glorified bicycles that went 100 mph with no brakes and no throttle on most, just a kill switch to temporarily cut the ignition, and are very much valued by collectors these days. It was Darwin Award stuff not too long after Darwin’s passing, and hell yeah I’d ride one.

Thanks. It’s been fun. I found so many interesting articles that weren’t related to this topic.

Here’s something I found about the Motordrome.

Riverview Stadium Motordrome - Chicago, Illinois
Opened 8 July 1911 / built in an amusement park named Riverview Exposition Park / this was located in between what is now West Addison Street, North Western Avenue, West Belmont Avenue and the Chicago River / this site is now occupied by DeVry University and Lane Technical High School / three riders crashed fatally at the motordrome / amateur George Nelson in July 1911, a few days before the track was of cially opened / rider Court Edwards in September 1912 / and nally rider Leon
Pitts in May 1913 / the last known race took place in June 1913 / this was a 1/3-mile circle reportedly banked at 45
degrees / built by Jack Prince / aka Riverview Exposition Stadium Motordrome / aka Riverview Park Motordrome

Also I found out his full name is Courtland P. Edwards and was born Jan. 1876 in Kansas. He had five or six siblings.

There are several earlier articles in a Topeka news paper about bike races he was in when he lived in Kansas.